After a short absence filled by the European Championships, Newcastle United football is back. The intensity of play may not be quite as high as it will be when the full season starts next month, but the pre-season is still important in its own way.
As players get back to match fitness and show that they’ve improved over the summer, pre-season is a chance to see just how prepared this team is to build upon what was a very impressive 2011-12 campaign. The pre-season results don’t necessarily matter – so you needn’t worry about the 1-0 loss to Chemnitzer FC – but the quality of play does, especially when it comes to looking at individuals.
And as far as looking at individual performances in pre-season, here are five players who we should pay attention to the most, as they have the most to prove over the next month or so.
5. Sylvain Marveaux
Injury cut short what looked to be a promising debut season at St. James’ Park for Frenchman Sylvain Marveaux, but the pre-season will give him the opportunity to impress manager Alan Pardew again, as he looks to win a place ahead of Jonas Gutierrez on Newcastle’s left wing, or at the very least as his back up.
If Marveaux can regain the form that earned him a starting role before his groin injury last season, he could find himself back in the thick of Pardew’s squad, and the pre-season will provide him with the opportunity to do just that.
4. Rob Elliot
With such a great first-team goalkeeper in Tim Krul, it seems strange to say that back-up Rob Elliot should be one of the players to watch in pre-season, but Alan Pardew’s recent comments about the goalkeeping situation say otherwise.
According to The Chronicle, Pardew believes that Elliot has the quality to challenge Krul for his starting spot every step of the way, with the pre-season undoubtedly acting as his platform to do so. Even if Elliot doesn’t eventually beat Krul to the job, it will be an interesting battle to watch, and at the very least a competitive pre-season will make both ‘keepers emerge as better players come the 18th of August.
3. Romain Amalfitano
French midfielder Romain Amalfitano was Alan Pardew’s first signing of the summer, and though he won’t start ahead of Yohan Cabaye or Cheik Tiote, the pre-season will give him the opportunity to earn a very important role in the first team.
With Danny Guthrie leaving and Dan Gosling struggling, the back-up midfield role is one for the taking, and Amalfitano has the chance here to prove himself worthy of the job. Based on Graham Carr’s scouting history, Amalfitano will likely have the talent to earn the role, but whether he does or not remains to be seen this pre-season.
2. Demba Ba
The struggles of Demba Ba in the second half of last season were a real surprise to everyone, and fans will be hoping to see the old Ba in the pre-season campaign. These exhibition matches will give Ba a chance to prove that he’s still the same striker he was in the first half of the season, and that he can co-exist with fellow Senegalese striker Papiss Cisse.
Along with that, pre-season will give Ba an opportunity to establish his role, as Alan Pardew appears undecided on whether or not he should be used on the left wing or as an out-and-out striker.
Most importantly, fans will simply want to see that Ba is still a Newcastle player in pre-season, as these recent rumours about his possible departure have caused some worry on Tyneside.
1. Haris Vuckic
With players such as Gabriel Obertan, Sammy Ameobi and Shane Ferguson, Newcastle United are a team that’s stacked with fantastic young talanet. But of all their young players, Haris Vuckic appears to be the most intriguing prospect for the future.
And with the Europa League coming up, the future could very well be now for Vuckic, and the pre-season will allow the Slovenian a chance to prove himself worthy of a bit more playing time with the big boys at Newcastle United. Pre-season could be the difference between Vuckic starting the season in the Premier League squad or out on loan, so he’ll certainly be looking to impress in the exhibition season.